President Cyril Ramaphosa has suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane from office with immediate effect.
In a statement, the Presidency said Mkhwebane would remain suspended until the section 194 process in the National Assembly has been completed.
“President Ramaphosa has fulfilled his obligation to provide advocate Mkhwebane a fair hearing by according her sufficient time and opportunity to make submissions,” the statement said.
“In considering each element of the public protector’s submissions carefully, the president has taken into account the nature of the public protector’s office and his own constitutional obligations.
“Section 2A (7) of the Public Protector Act states that whenever the public protector is, for any reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office, or while the appointment of a person to the office of public protector is pending, the deputy public protector shall perform such functions.”
The Presidency said Mkhwebane’s absence would not impede the progress of any investigations that are pending or underway.
“President Ramaphosa and advocate Mkhwebane are both obligated to act in the best interest of the country, in compliance with the Constitution and mindful of the need to protect all constitutional institutions. The president’s decision to suspend advocate Mkhwebane is the best manner to fulfil these obligations.”
Mkhwebane had previously argued that Ramaphosa was conflicted and therefore could not suspend her.
Meanwhile, in a last-ditch effort to stop the impeachment process against her, Mkhwebane approached the African Commission on Human and People Rights, accusing the Republic of South Africa of violating her rights by seeking to remove her from office.
She said South Africa had violated her rights under articles 7(1) and 26 of the African Charter, which relate to the right of an individual to have their case heard and the duty of the state to guarantee the independence of the courts.
“The violations in the present case occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of the respondent [South Africa],” she argued.
She wants the commission to find that the rule, which relates to the appointment of judges as part of the independent panel, is inconsistent.
She also said she had to employ attorneys and advocates and had incurred disbursements and legal costs.
Mkhwebane now wants South Africa to pay R50 million “as compensation for damages suffered” and legal costs incurred in the Western Cape High Court and the Constitutional Court.